Ventura County designates auto dealerships as essential businesses

Dealers must adopt social distancing protocol

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On April 18, 2020, Ventura County issued a new Order that designates Automobile Dealerships as "Essential Businesses," permitting in-person sales and long-term leasing transactions (as well as service and parts). It is important to note that automobile rentals are not permitted. So, if you operate a rental car service, you should cease operations under this Order. While it is unclear as to whether this includes "service loaners", shuttle services seem to be permitted in a different carve-out for private transportation providers.

As an "Essential Business" in Ventura County, Auto Dealerships may remain open to the public provided they have an adequate Social Distancing Protocol, which at a minimum explains how the dealership is achieving the following:

  1. Limiting the number of persons who can enter the dealership and work areas at any one time to ensure that persons in the facility and work areas can easily maintain a minimum six-foot distance from one another at all times, except as required to complete the Essential Business activity;
  2. Where lines may form at the facility, marking increments of six feet, at a minimum, establishing where individuals must stand to maintain adequate social distancing;
  3. Providing hand sanitizer, soap and water, or other effective disinfectant at or near the entrance of the facility and in other appropriate areas for use by the public and employees and in locations where there is high-frequency employee interaction with the public (e.g., cashiers);
  4. Providing for contactless payment systems or, if not feasible to do so, disinfect for the next customer by disinfecting all payment portals, pens and styluses after each use;
  5. Regularly cleaning and disinfecting other high-touch surfaces;
  6. Posting a sign at the entrance of the facility and work area informing the public and employees that they should avoid entering the facility if they have a cough or fever; maintain a minimum six-foot distance from one another; sneeze and cough into their elbow; and not shake hands or engage in unnecessary physical contact; and
  7. Any additional social distancing measures being implemented.

Additional requirements under the Order include:

  1. The Social Distancing Protocol be posted at or near each entrance of the facility;
  2. A copy of the Social Distancing Protocol must be provided to each employee performing work at the facility;
  3. An on-duty employee must be designated to monitor and enforce compliance with the Social Distancing Protocol at all times the dealership is open to the public; and
  4. Documentation establishing the Social Distancing Protocol and its implementation must be available to provide to authorities upon request.

Failure to comply with this Order constitutes a threat to public health and a public nuisance per se pursuant to Health and Safety Code sections 101040 and 120175, Civil Code section 3494 and Code of Civil Procedure section 731. The County Health Officer or any other authorized County of Ventura official may enforce any violation of this Order and abate the public nuisance by obtaining injunctive relief from a court of competent jurisdiction.

Additionally, violation of the Order may constitute unfair competition, subjecting the business to civil penalties and other relief as provided therein, for each act or practice in violation of it.

The Order remains in effect until May 15, 2020.

We recommend that every dealer in the County of Ventura adopt a Social Distancing Protocol that complies with the county’s requirements, whether or not the dealership opens its sales department. For dealerships that open their sales departments, we recommend evaluating the sales process to ensure that prudent social distancing measures are adopted, including those that may exceed the requirements of the Order. Contact Scali Rasmussen to obtain a Social Distancing Protocol that will ensure employee understanding of the requirements and limit your dealership’s liability.